Headlines: May 26th, 2005

Government’s policies for families are exposing tensions and conflicts with Britain’s commitments on human rights that need to be debated and resolved, according to a study published today. The report, produced for the Joseph Rowntree Foundation, finds that while international conventions require the government to recognise the rights and needs of children and parents, the needs of different family members often compete and this reflected in inconsistencies in policy areas.The study has been written by Clem Henricson, the Director of Research and Policy at the National Family and Parenting Institute, and Andrew Bainham, Reader in Law at Cambridge University. They have reviewed the implications of the European Convention on Human Rights and the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child for child and family policy. The study also considers the possible impact of the Charter of Fundamental Rights under the proposed European Union Constitution.

It says international commitments require the Government to tackle poverty and social exclusion ‘across the generations’, but domestic policy focuses on reducing child poverty. On family support and child protection, the report says, the Government has invested in universal support for families, as well as child protection services for individuals and the recent appointment of a Children’s Commissioner. In spite of these positive developments, policies are largely driven by concern for children’s welfare, rather than their rights.

In the field of education the report says rights conventions insists parents should have a significant role in their child’s education but children should also have a say over the direction of their education, but in the UK parents’ rights are dominant in education policy. The age of criminal responsibility – 10 in England and Wales – is too low to comply with the UN Convention.

The authors are urging the Government to review existing provisions with a view to designing a national family and child protection policy, which would reconcile current conflicts and recognise both children’s and parents’ human rights.